By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
Special Enquiry Commissions, Parliamentary Select Committees, Indictments before Law Courts, all are to deal with one issue. Who is responsible? There are two main areas of concern. First, who is behind and associated with this attack? Second, did it happen due to the negligence of some?
In trying to find answers, one has to take a look at some of the recent relevant events and happenings prior to 21st April. The incident connected to the devastation of Buddha Statues in the Mawanella Police area is one specific occurrence among such that is too important to be ignored.
On 23rd and 26th December 2018, Buddha Statues in 4 different public locations in the Mawanella Police Area were damaged by an unknown group during the night. On complaints received by the Police 7 suspects were arrested. They were produced before the Mawanella Magistrate on 27th December 2018. These suspects were remanded and are still in remand custody. The investigations conducted by the Kegalle police division about this incident brought to light many alarming revelations and disclosures.
On 28th December 2018, SP Kegalle division made a written request to SSP Shani Abeysekera, Director CID, to assist the ongoing investigations conducted by them since it was suspected that these subversive acts were instigated by an International Organization to arouse communal and religious dis-harmony among the people. Therefore they went to the extent of requesting the director CID to seek the cooperation of the Interpol.
Director CID replied by his letter dated 29/1/2019 addressed to SP, stating that it is not possible to get any assistance from the INTERPOL without specific information on the country suspected for this international coup, how and by whom such acts were committed.
During the investigations it was revealed that two persons named Mohomed Ibrahim Sadiq Abdul Haque and Mohomed Ibrahim Saheed has played a main role in the issue and have escaped from the area. Police deployed special groups to arrest them. (these two suspects were arrested in a foot-wear shop at Nawalapitiya a few days after the April 21st Bomb Blast)
It was also disclosed during the investigations by Kegalle that a person named Zaharan was the main person involved in these activities and they also got information that Zaharan was living in Kattankudy area. A team of Police officers of the Kegalle Division under orders by the DIG were sent on 31/12/2018 to Kattankudy. After a few days of search operations they were unable to apprehend the suspect as he had fled from that area. The GS of Kattankudy has given a statement to the police team stating that Zaharan has left the area in 2017 and was not sighted thereafter.
On 3/1/2019, SP Kegalle Division made a written request to the IGP through the SDIG Sabaragamuwa, requesting him to make arrangements for the CID, TID or SIS to take over the investigations. In his letter he has emphasized the fact that Kegalle Division is not sufficiently equipped to conduct the investigations which require expert attention in the areas such as telephone conversations, involvements of international organizations and the need to examine bank account records of the suspects, etc.
On 7th Jan 2019, DIG Kegalle has forwarded this request to SDIG Sabaragamuwa with his own observations while endorsing the request made by the SP. Accordingly the investigations were handed over to the CID by the IGP.
In a B report submitted by IP Marasinghe of the Special Investigation unit ii of the CID, to the Mawanella Magistrate on 30th Jan 2019, he has stated inter alia;
1. The IGP has ordered that further investigations on the compliant made to Police on 26/12/2018 re the Buddha statue incident , be conducted by the CID;
2. The CID conducted a search operation in the Puttlam Police area;
3. They came to know that the two persons wanted in connection with the Mawanella incident had visited the place called Lactose Estate in Vanathavilluwa.
4. When they searched a coconut estate and two houses in this location they detected a large stock of firearms and explosive material and chemicals used for making explosives. This place has been used as a training camp for making bombs and to engage in unlawful activities .
5. Four suspects while being on the spot were arrested under Terrorism Prevention Act and the explosives and other items were taken into custody.
6. A large haul of Arms , chemicals and material used to make explosives were detected after questioning the arrested suspects.
7. Detection of Bags of Urea and other material established that this place has been used to manufacture explosives for some terrorist activity.
8. Action was taken to detain the four suspects for investigation purposes for a period of 72 hours and thereafter detained them from 19/1/2019 for a period of 90 days under terrorism prevention act with an order from the Minister of Defense.
The report further stated that further investigations are carried on to arrest the other suspects who led this group of people, who were evading arrest. A person who was suspected for providing information to the CID about the Vanathavilluwa operations was shot in the head by an unknown gunman.
CID officer’s report stated that the investigations will be focused on how they came to possess explosives, who has provided financial assistance to the suspects, and to ascertain whether they were involved in any acts of terrorism intended to cause dis- harmony among the people backed by international support.
CID also moved to obtain an order to prevent a person named Mohomed Cassim Zaharan, who was evading arrest, from leaving the country.
CID officers’ report clearly states that the suspects have committed offences punishable under prevention of Terrorism act .
CID officers filing another B report on 27/2/2019 have stated that ;
a) The suspects were engaged in transporting explosives,
b) They have been engaged in assembling , meeting and conducting training programs for creating unrest and communal dis- harmony .
A further report submitted by CID to Mawanella courts state that during the course of their investigations they have ascertained that the following persons too were involved in this crime;
By the report submitted by the CID on 27th March 2019 , they have obtained an order from courts to prevent the following 6 persons suspected for the crimes from leaving the country.
1.Mohammadu Sarihu Adam Lebbe
2.Mohamed Anwer Mohamed Riskan
3.Mohameh RamsiMohamed Sajid ***
4.Abdul Jabar Mohamed Anas
5.Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer ***
6.Mohamed Shafi Mohideen Abdul Carder
*** these two names were included in a foreign intelligence report describing them as team members of a suicide attack, which was available to the SIS of the police on 8th April 2019 , before the attack.
(These two persons were arrested only on the day of the Bomb blast ie.21st April in Dambulla while fleeing)
On 13/3/2019 the CID submits a further report to Mawanella Police stating inter alia,
1. That foreign monies have been remitted to an account of an NGO which have been subsequently transferred to another account in the Amana Takaful which the CID suspected has been a source of funds to this group,
2. The report clearly indicates that the crimes committed by this group fall within the terrorism laws as punishable acts.
On 8th of April it is reported that a secret intelligent report by a foreign intelligence service is received by the SIS.
As per an input Sri Lanka based Zaharan Hashim of National Thowheed Jamat and his associates are planning to carry out suicide terror attack in Sri Lanka shortly. They are planning to target some important churches. It is further learnt that they have conducted reconnaissance of the Indian High Commission of Sri Lanka and it is one of the targets for the planned attack.
2. The input indicates that the terrorists may any of the following modes of attack.
a. Suicide attack
b. Weapon attack
c. Knife attack
d. Truck Attack
3.It is also learnt that the following are the likely team members of the planned suicide terror attack.
- Zaharan Hashim
- Jal Al Quithal
- Sajid Maulavi
- Milhan and others
4.The input may kindly be enquired into on priority and a feed back given to us.
Strangely the names mentioned in the foreign intelligent report have been included in the reports submitted to Mawanella Courts from time to time (between Jan and March 2019) by the CID. The reports also refer to offences categorized as terrorist activities including, Collection of explosives, chemicals, conducting of training classes to manufacture explosives, holding meetings to create disharmony, attacking religious places etc.etc. The empty acid cans and other empty cartons that were found at Vanathavilluwa camp by the CID no doubt would establish that the material has been distributed to other places.
Except the arrest of 13 suspects by Kegalle Police and the arrest of 4 persons at Vanathavlluwa by the CID team, police failed to arrest any of the leading main suspects whose names came out during the investigations long before the bomb attack.
But within a short time after the 21st April attacks all Key suspects wanted (leaving the suicide bombers) were arrested within a few days.
There are many reasons why it is important to consider the Vanathavilluwa haul as an important milestone regarding the negligence attributed to the security forces. It is reported that top service personnel such as, a Colonel of Army Intelligence, DIG Puttlam, ASP of the SIS, including Intelligence officers from the Navy and STF visited the scene of the detection at Vanathavilluwa on the 16th of January 2019.
The names and designations of all the senior officers who visited the scene on this day are available at the CID for perusal.
The negligent manner in which the investigations were conducted after the disclosure of explosives in Vanathavilluwa is clearly established by the fact that several months later after the 21st April bomb blast the police found a large barrel in the same premises detected on the information received from an arrested suspect. This barrel contained the two revolvers taken from the two police constables murdered while on night road block duty in Eravur. Several other fire arms including a T 56 were also found inside this barrel.
These incidents and revelations clearly show the negligent manner in which the search operations and investigations were conducted prior to the 21st April attack.
Various other incidents and events associated with this indicate a very suspicious background.
The big question is why the IGP and the Defense secretary who were well aware of the connected involvements, activities, detections and investigations before the April 21st attack, failed to take meaningful action when they received an intelligent report from a foreign intelligent service on the 8th of April along with a SIS report. This so called intelligence in put confirmed the data and information collected previously by our CID.
The report of the SIS accompanying the foreign intelligence report too becomes highly debatable because it does not contain any references to several matters revealed and investigated following the Mawanella incident. Officials of the SIS were present at the Vanathavilluwa scene when a large quantity of fire arms, explosives and material for manufacturing bombs were detected. The CID reports filed in Mawanella courts from time to time giving details of the outcome of the investigations clearly evidence the clandestine activities that were going on. In fact all names that appeared in the intelligence report were of identified suspects reported by the CID before.
Between the 8th and 21st of April there was sufficient time for the security forces to take necessary steps to prevent the attack. If the authorities did not keep matters discreetly hushed up, they would have been able to get more information from the public to apprehend the perpetrators. What we witnessed after the 21st attack bears ample evidence to this because in a few days after the 21st the security forces were able to arrest almost all suspects involved in the secret movement acting on the information from the members of the public.
The IGP knew the story from the beginning because he was associated with the investigations on the Mawanella incident. His marking the intelligence report ( 8th April 2019) with the SIS report to the DIGs for necessary action is a gross dereliction of his duties.
The Defense secretary too was aware of what was going on because persons detained under 90 day periods Under DOs have to be recommended by him to the Defense Minister. He has to know the facts and be satisfied before he recommended the detention order to his Minister.
Lives of about 300 innocent victims, huge damages to property, and the tarnishing of the country reputation, adverse effects to the travel industry etc. etc.all could have been prevented with little more attention by these two officials. Therefore they cannot be pardoned for this crime.